Like most people who’ve seen Jared Roethlisberger’s ’51 Olds in person, STREET RODDER’s first look at the car was at the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show where the custom made its debut.
Jared grew up in a family of automotive enthusiasts, watching his uncle work on cars as a mechanic and listening to his mom’s stories about her Corvette and ’69 Cougar XR7, and his dad’s stories of racing on various Southern California dragstrips. His own taste leans toward customs. He started working on his first car, a ’41 Plymouth sedan, when he was still in high school.
After selling the Plymouth, Jared was eager to start something new. The guy who had replaced the glass in the Plymouth knew all the area cars, and provided a few leads, then mentioned his own ’51 Olds. “The car was covered with a plastic tarp that had glass dust all over it,” Jared remembers. There was no interior or windows, the chopped top was only finished half way and there was no engine or transmission. It took me a while to see the possibilities, but within a couple of days I knew I wanted it.”
The Olds went to Highway 99 Hot Rods in Visalia, California, for the build. “It was obviously someone’s abandoned project,” Don Dillard, owner of Highway 99, says. “The drivetrain was missing, there was no interior, and everything that was there was apart and thrown in the inside of the car. The body modifications had been started, but not finished and what was done, was done poorly. But there was no evidence of any collision or rust damage. It was a very solid car before someone started hacking on it.
Don Dillard, Ethan Seals,...
Don Dillard, Ethan Seals, Josh Scarbrough, Derron Dillard, and Chris Scarbrough at Highway 99 Hot Rods took Jared’s ’51 from “abandoned project” to GNRS show car.
“At first, Jared told me he wanted it bagged. I said it needed a whole lot more than bags and proceeded to rattle off a list of things that would be included in a groundup build.” The front suspension was replaced with a GM G-body (’78-87 Monte Carlo, Cutlass, Gran Prix) front clip—and substituted the front spindles, rotors, and calipers for those from the same year Cadillac, giving up 12-inch disc brakes. The airbags are a RideTech kit for G-bodies. Highway 99 eliminated the original semi-elliptic leafs in the rear but kept the stock axle, and added a custom triangulated four-link and custom brackets for the RideTech airbags. Once all the frame mods were completed the entire chassis was blasted and powdercoated.
Jared supplied the rebuilt Chevy 350, running an aluminum dual-plane intake with a 650-cfm Edelbrock carb, a Technostalgia Caddy-style air cleaner, finned aluminum valve covers, coated blockhugger headers, and Bill’s Hot Rod Company brackets. A GM HEI ignition provides spark. TRC in Visalia rebuilt a TH350 transmission for the car. Rather than use the factory G-body mounting location, the engine and trans were mounted lower in the chassis to allow the custom driveshaft, built by McAllister’s in Visalia, to line up with the X-member in the center of the frame.
The top cover of the ’63 Galaxie...
The top cover of the ’63 Galaxie console was modified for the Gennie shifter topped by a glass door knob. The restored steering wheel once steered a ’53 Bel Air.
The bodywork was the most time-consuming portion of the build, due to the sad condition of the car. The top chop was unfinished, but it was straight and didn’t need re-cutting. Filler work was redone on the top, the windows, doors, and garnish moldings were refinished. All of the trim had been removed from the car and most of the holes welded up. The hood and front fenders were modified with a curved lip where they meet the upper grille bar. The ’57 Corvette grille came from Night Prowler’s Customs; front turn signals were mounted behind the teeth. Both bumpers were reshaped and then sent to Meclec in Fresno for fresh chrome. The doorjambs were reshaped to accommodate solenoid-activated bear claw latches, and the roof was rounded at the upper corners of the windshield. The ’54 Ford headlight was partly installed; Dillard finished welding them and filled the holes below the headlights. The stock taillights were replaced with ’54 Merc lenses. See page 58 for tech details on the taillight installation.